Worker injured while fixing hose cleaning machine

Ontario employer Atlas Hydraulics Inc. was fined $60,000 after pleading guilty for contributing to circumstances that led to an injury on one worker.

The employer is also facing a 25-per-cent victim fine surcharge as required by the Provincial Offences Act, which will be credited to a special provincial government fund to assist victims of crime. The charge root from an April 22, 2019, incident, when the worker – a hose line operator – was working on a machine known as the Ultra Clean BM1.25, 1 ¼” Bench Mount Launcher.

At approximately 3:15pm that day, the worker was tasked with cleaning industrial hoses using the Bench Mount Launcher to send projectiles through a hose. The Bench Mount Launcher utilizes a pneumatic foot pedal as an operating control that, when pressed, launches a plunger which in turn directs a projectile through the desired hose. This pedal therefore acts as a guard for the machine.

The worker inserted a projectile in the top of the Bench Mount Launcher, but it failed on its first cycle. The worker unscrewed and removed the locking ring from the unit and stuck their finger inside the unit to reorient the projectile.

While the worker’s finger was still inside the unit, they accidentally stepped on the foot pedal and the unit cycled. The ram pinched the worker’s finger against a small lip on the inside of the projectile chamber, and the worker sustained an injury.

“The foot pedal used for the Bench Mount Launcher could be moved around to wherever the worker wanted it, and, at the time of the incident, the foot pedal was not shrouded,” according to the Ontario government. “These conditions contributed to the incident that caused the worker’s injuries.”

As such, the employer failed to comply with section 28(b) of Ontario Regulation 851 contrary to section 25(1)(c) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

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Why Do Some Hydraulic Hoses Outperform Others?

Operational environments and application demands for hydraulic hoses are vast and varied. From snowplows in cold Canadian winters to the hot interior workings of industrial machinery, hydraulic hoses perform a great number of functions the modern world depends on.

Each of these hose applications has one thing in common: Failure is not an option. Unreliable hoses can cost companies millions of dollars in downtime on critical equipment. A failed hose on a transit bus can strand dozens of commuters for hours. Worse, a hose failure can seriously injure operators and workers. For these reasons, hydraulic hoses are far from a commodity. They are responsible for the safe operation of countless applications around the world, and given how different all these applications are, not every hose should be made the same.

Hose performance highly depends on what the rubber is made of, the standards under which that rubber was formulated and that formulation’s ability to deliver the performance needed for a specific application. Rubber formulation may be the most important factor in hose performance, but there are others.

Demands on Hoses

While different applications have different demands, the general performance characteristics of a given hose typically fall into several categories: temperature, flexibility, weather resistance, abrasion resistance and durability.

Temperature. Hydraulic hoses can face a range of temperatures in their operating environments. In many hydraulic systems, increased demand for more power, speed and flow have driven up system temperatures. Higher flow rates increase friction, leading to higher fluid temperatures. Today’s hoses must withstand these hotter temperatures.

Flexibility. This is a measure of how much force is needed to bend a hose and is important for several reasons. First, the hoses must be flexible enough to meet the OEM’s design criteria and be able to bend and fit into compact spaces. Second, flexibility is important for ergonomic concerns. An assembly technician routing hoses through the frame of a vehicle, for example, could become fatigued if hoses are exceedingly difficult to bend. Finally, if a piece of equipment requires a hose to move during operation, that hose must have the right flexibility while maintaining durability.

Weathering resistance. Hydraulic hoses are often exposed to direct sunlight or ozone. Continuous exposure to these conditions degrades rubber compounds, potentially leading to cracks in hoses that have not been formulated with weathering protection in mind.

Abrasion resistance. Once in service, hoses regularly come into contact with other equipment parts or environmental hazards. Continuous rubbing or scraping against other surfaces erodes the hose cover, which can lead to corrosion or fatigue in the hose’s reinforcing layers and eventual hose failure. For example, hydraulic hoses on forestry equipment regularly brush against logs and tree branches. Because abrasion is the most common failure mode for hoses, high tear strength is critical.

Durability. Long service life is important for hydraulic hoses, especially in applications where downtime due to a broken hose can cost millions of dollars in losses. Longevity is often a function of the hose’s ability to withstand high pressures, with dynamic pressure being the most challenging. In applications with continuously rising and falling pressure, fatigue leads to failures. These impulse applications call for hoses made of durable compounds that resist fatigue.


Formulation is Key

Each of these hose characteristics is influenced by what goes into the rubber the hose is made from (the formulation), as well as how the hose is constructed. Rubber compounds can contain 5 to 30 ingredients, and each plays a specific role.

Several industry standards help ensure a minimum level of performance in hydraulic hoses (SAE and ISO, for example), but they simply provide a baseline. Hose manufacturers with advanced rubber formulations and construction expertise can help OEMs get hose performance that goes above and beyond industry standards, helping increase longevity and uptime.

Formulating rubber for a particular set of performance attributes can be tricky. For example:

  • A chemistry that gives rubber a desired level of flexibility may reduce abrasion resistance.
  • Specifications that require a specific certain level of rubber hardness may not address high tear strength.
  • A polymer blend that lets a hose resist high temperatures may be incompatible with some system media or hydraulic fluids.

Finding the right chemical and polymer balance for a critical hose application is important; this requires a high level of formulation expertise and experience, along with the right development process.

Even when a formulation is correct, a hose is only as good as the materials from which it is made. That’s why raw materials sourcing and supply are critical to hose quality. Good hose manufacturers know exactly where their raw materials come from and if their suppliers consistently send them high-quality raw materials. They also tightly control their manufacturing processes and have stringent traceability programs. With traceability, manufacturers can pinpoint flaws in production or supply after a hose failure, and hopefully prevent similar failures in the future.

Getting the Mix Right

Performance characteristics and quality raw materials are important, but the best rubber formulation is about more than just the chemical properties that go into it.

When a hose needs specific performance attributes, OEMs should work closely with a hose manufacturer; it can make all the difference. With the OEM’s performance needs and application intention in hand, a manufacturer should be able to tailor a rubber formulation and hose construction from the ground up to get the right performance.

For example, top-notch hose makers work closely with customers to deliver hoses with specific application needs. The process usually begins by reviewing customer needs and developing small-batch prototypes to ensure the rubber will have the proper performance attributes. After accelerated life testing in the manufacturer’s labs verifies performance, the customer field tests the hose to make sure it stands up to real-world conditions. Once the right mix is determined, full-scale production can be ramped up using vetted source materials to get hoses into the customer’s hands when they are needed.

It is a stringent process, and a worthwhile one. Hydraulic hoses must provide safe and reliable performance under increasingly severe conditions in a host of important applications around the world. There is no room for compromise.

Christopher Schwab is the senior product manager for Eaton’s Rubber Hydraulic Hose and Fitting Products, and Aaron Clark is the materials science manager and chief chemist at Eaton.

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Enterprises Acquires HosePower Canada

Industrial hose, fluid power and hose assembly products distributor JGB Enterprise announced Wednesday that, backed by HCI Equity Partners, it has acquired Industrial Petroleum and Mining Supplies Limited (IPM), which does business as HosePower Canada and is based outside of Toronto.

IPM is a distributor of hydraulic, industrial and propane hose, fittings and accessories. The company has six locations across Canada and serves more than 3,000 customers across end markets that include forestry, mining, construction, agricultural and diversified industrials.

“IPM is a market-leading distribution platform in an industry where JGB has extensive experience and success, and we believe it represents a compelling opportunity to drive operating improvements and geographic expansion,” said Kevin Kilkelly, President of JGB Enterprises.

The deal closed on June 10. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Liverpool, NY-based JGB has been a regular on Industrial Distribution‘s annual Big 50 List, charting at No. 44 in 2020.

HCI managing partner Doug McCormick commented, “IPM is an exciting acquisition that will accelerate JGB’s growth while also expanding the company’s ability to serve its customers with a robust line of industrial and hydraulic products. We look forward to supporting the JGB team with additional capital as it continues to execute its acquisition growth strategy.”

Greenberg Traurig, LLP and McMillan LLP served as legal counsel to JGB.

Besides its Liverpool, NY headquarters, JGB has additional locations in Buffalo, NY; North Carolina, Missouri and Texas.

Washington, DC-based HCI Equity Partners is a lower middle-market private equity firm focused on partnering with family and founder owned distribution, manufacturing and service companies.

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